No offense but…nevermind…offense!

V23274I am constantly checking my motives/ideas/convictions and what I’ve been "taught" from others and evaluating what I’ve heard. I went to Fresno Pacific University for one year in the middle of my college career as a Biblical and Religious Studies major before transferring to Fresno State and graduating in Finance. FPU is a Mennonite Brethren College with a strong belief in Pacifism.

One Professor that I had, who was one of the most loved on campus, told a story of how these young hooligans drove by him one day (the school is in a pretty bad area of town by the way) and as they drove by, one of the guys hung out of the car and hit him. They circled back around, so he "turned the other cheek" to them and they hit him again. He told this story in class one day and I just about lost it laughing because that had to be the stupidest thing I’d ever heard. Some people get so "religious" that I think they get blinded by common sense. Not all of my experiences at FPU were bad, just enough to make me not want to go there anymore! Maybe it’s better now, but I’ve seen so many people, in the name of Christianity, just roll over. Now, I’m not saying that we need to be picketing abortion clinics or boycotting Disneyland, because I think that is wrong, but we should be turning our frustrations into logical actions. Like some of you bloggers out there who are doing your part in Africa or leading worship at a Winter Camp, or being an influential pastor. It is like "battered wife syndrome" where this girl gets abused by her husband, but for some reason, they still defend him. I don’t get it. So, I thought this little story from my daily reading from "Reflections for Ragamuffins" by Brennan Manning was pretty good:

No Call to be a Doormat

This Scenario has been playing in my mind: a young female disciple of Jesus wanted to develop a spirit of compassion for all human beings. But when she went to the supermarket to gather her groceries, she found her compassion sorely tested by an ugly assistant manager who would subject her to unwelcome caresses.

One dreary, rainy day she could tolerate it no longer and began to shout angrily at the manager. To her mortification she saw Jesus, who was reaching for a jar of peanut butter on the shelf and quietly observing her behavior. Shamefaced, she came and stood before the Lord, expecting to be rebuked for her anger.

"What you should do,"Jesus kindly counseled her, "is to fill your heart with as much loving-kindness as you can muster. Then whack him over the head with your umbrella."

Nowhere in Scripture does Jesus indicate that being compassionate means being a doormat. There is no trace of restraint when Jesus roars, "The devil is your father and you prefer to do what your father wants" (see John 8:44). We hear utter frustration in the words "How much longer must I put up with You?" (see Matt. 17:17), unmitigated rage in "Get behind me Satan!" (see Matt. 16:23), and blazing wrath in "Stop turning my Father’s house into a marketplace" (see John 2:16).

The wisdom to discern when it is appropriate to turn the other cheek and when it is time to raise the umbrella comes only from listening to the heartbeat of the Great Rabbi.

Be self controlled and alert- 1 Peter 5:8"

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9 comments

  1. Hmm… good thoughts.
    Really difficult issue to tread theologically. Here are some of my thoughts on the subject.
    Pacifism can be really unrealistic when it comes to justice being acted out in the world. But, who decides what is just?
    When it comes to abuses of power (for example: a husband that beats his wife, a mother that verbally berates her child, an uncle that rapes his niece, a terrorist that kills a family, or even a pastor that spiritually manipulates his congregation) Jesus(God) promoted heavily that we should stand against it, however with methods of compassionate non-violence. Should we rape the rapist, should we verbally abuse the mother, should we pound the husband, should we kill the terrorist, and should we manipulate the pastor for all they’ve done? It wouldn’t seem right… That is unless you were closely tied to the individual. I can empathize – if it were my wife or son, every part of me would want to see the same done to the perpetrator. But, I am also fallen. I am not God-like enough to decide how justice should be enacted. That doesn’t mean that I should be silent, that I should overlook the actions of the perpetrator. I think I’m called to be light and to speak truth.
    I think of the woman brought before Jesus who was caught in the act of adultery… He didn’t say the crowd was wrong in their conviction of her. She committed adultery! He said it wasn’t right for them to kill her. He basically said, “…you can only execute justice if you are sinless” to which they weren’t. Neither are we. So, they were right in their accusation, but were wrong in their execution. Jesus ends it all by redeeming her life from “the grave”. This should be our hope for all humankind, even our enemies.
    Just think, if the early church ran around killing pagans for all the martyrs they made, there wouldn’t be a church today, or it would look totally different in my opinion. It was their loving, non-violent, justice seeking courage that spread like wildfire. They were “like” Jesus Christ in their behavior, and not like the “world”. In a culture that only knows written laws to determine what is right or wrong – they lived according to Spirit! Which is greater?
    We should come against injustice with our voices and call attention to the fact of injustices being done and hold the person accountable – much like the prophets of the Bible.
    That said, I’ve always had a really hard time theologically with the WHOLE view of God in both the Old and New Testaments. Old Testament God seems to kill the wicked without remorse (Sodam and Gomorrah), and yet the New Testament God seems to lay down His life willingly and not raise a finger against his attackers (Peter put away your sword). Confusing.
    Was Joseph dumb? Were Shadrak, Meshak, and Abendego dumb? Was David dumb? Was Jesus dumb? Were the apostles dumb? Was Paul dumb? I hope not. It’s not really about being a doormat – it’s about being a prophet. It’s not about putting up with injustice quietly and doing nothing, it’s about responding against the powers and principalities that rule this world. It’s not about being dumb, it’s about being more Christ-like. All easier to write than accomplish!
    I love Brennan Manning’s work – but he’s wrong in one part. I don’t think “whacking someone over the head” sounds even remotely akin to anything that Jesus did, or would, ever encourage anyone to do. It just doesn’t hold up with Biblical themes, and it wouldn’t accomplish anything but more retaliation and escalating into a scene of two people abusing one another. I think He would say something more like this: “Don’t be ashamed young lady. What can I do to help you stand up for yourself.”
    I’m not a lover and I’m not a fighter. I’m not a pacifist and I’m not a soldier. I’m just a guy wrestling with the realities of following Christ in today’s world.
    P.S. Yeah, what your professor did was stupid. And I think I know who it was. He is a respectable person.

  2. I would have to agree with a lot of what D Rho said. Their are times when our voice should be heard, but I don’t think responding “with a whack of an umbrella” is the Christ like response. I love the quote by Abraham Lincoln, “I have always found that mercy bears richer fruits than strict justice.”
    I also would have to strongly disagree with anytype of correlation between the prof’s story or the girl at the grocery store and a woman who suffers from “battered wife syndrome”. I to don’t understand what it is like to be submitted to such abuse, but just because we don’t get it, doesn’t allow one to judge what the pychological effects are or aren’t of such a continual beating.
    The difficulty for me is that this whole area seems pretty gray. I am not sure if a black or white statement can be made on how to handle all situations. I think Love should be a driving force behind all that we do. Love doesn’t mean being a doormat, and it also doesn’t mean justifying murder with murder. I guess that’s the rub, its not easy to define.

  3. There is no black or white issue here. I was merely talking through thoughts I was having.
    That said: Obviously, if someone is wronging you, you just step out of the situation. I don’t think her whacking the guy with an umbrella is “eye for an eye” by any means. I’m just saying that a lot of people (Christians and young people like us) talk around issues and think so hard on them that they start distorting the God-given common sense that we’ve been given. If sticking your hand over fire hurts, move it.
    The correlation of the stories is that we all have a decision to make when we are presented with circumstances. We can choose to bare the pain, internalize it, or do something about it. It’s like when your kid breaks their arm and you call your friend and they say, “just pray for them”. No, you idiot, take them to the Dr. and have them fix it.
    There are many situations in this world that are complicated issues. The ones which I’m talking are, in my mind anyway, not. It’s funny to me because what I’m talking about, the over-talking and over-thinking of issues, is kind of what is happening here. Maybe I’ll just stick to posting about movies and pictures of my kids! Sorry Kristi, back to technology talk.

  4. I think I see what your saying now; that over-religious answers to major, real-life problems don’t really help anything. We can use our God-given common sense in those situations (like taking your kid to the hospital when they break their arm, and moving out of the way when somebody wants to hit you).
    But living in an abusive situation (like the battered wife) common sense would say “just leave”. Easier said than done. Unless you’ve been in that situation you can’t possibly know or understand the complexity of psychological, physical, emotional, and spiritual issues bouncing through that person. I know because I am one of those people. For us it’s not that simple – our common sense is broken and distorted already. I was a little confused as to what you were getting at I guess. Sorry man. I thought you were talking about how we as followers of Christ should respond to injustice in those kinds of situations where there are no simple answers. Didn’t mean to sound argumentive, just wanted to post some of my thoughts on the issue.

  5. I must say, I really enjoyed this post. I REALLY enjoyed the iPhone post too, but please don’t refrain from bearing your thoughts and soul on your blog. Grant it, it made for a much deeper lunch break than normal but I thoroughly needed it.
    My .02 cents: I agree with the ‘token religious responses’ that are beyond common sense. We have an inside joke that ‘I’ll pray for you’ means ‘Go bother someone else with your problem, I don’t have time right now.’ THAT’S AN EXTREME, I know! But all too often the answer isn’t a prayer but it’s a listening ear, it’s a car ride to school, it’s money for rent, it’s a trip to the hospital, it’s YOU! Yes, God works in miracles but He also works through His people.
    I digress, thank you for your post. Ones like this and ones for techie geeks 🙂

  6. It seems that each of us bears a different cross. I tend to anger easily at the kind of injustice that you gave as an example of the prof. My gut says, “defend yourself and let them know that you can’t be treated that way.” Maybe in my case, allowing that kind of situation to occur without retaliation is a test of my emotional control. God works on our character in different ways. What he deems a trial to me may not be the same kind of trial to another, but rather a strengthening of a character trait they already possess.

  7. dude….you hit it right on the head….why can’t christians be Loud…about their faith in Jesus Christ……? we don’t have to make human chains around anything but showing a united front is so important…..I’m graduating High school in like 2 months and every year we have a see you at the pole rally……. where all the christains who want to come to the flag pole in the morning before school can come and pray and worship our God freely…..and every year the numbers go down of the people who show up and every year there are people their who act like everyone else 364 days in the year but suddenly they are all holy…..i believe that todays followers need to be loud and united or we are going to be a generation that will fall right on our butts……We NEED TO BE LOUD ABOUT OUR FAITH!!!!!!!……LIVE IT LOUD AND PROUD…….U FEEL ME?

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